Developer: Dreams Uncorporated
Release Date: July 20, 2021
Generally speaking, I really struggle to get into JRPGs, despite there being so many components of them I enjoy. Mostly, I think this is due to the combination of slow starts, and – at least for people not fluent in the genre – a tendency towards really terrible control schemes. The first time I loaded up Cris Tales, I couldn’t even figure out how to start the game, and had to tab out to find out that it was one of those games where X and Z are your main keys for getting anything done. In retrospect, this isn’t the first time I have encountered the “arrow keys plus Z and X” control scheme, but historically, I never seem to last long playing games that use it.
Moving past that, the game’s opening is long, and you have a lot to get through before you can save. I played through the tutorial battle, and enough of the walking around bits to get to a place where I could save and then … failed to actually save before exiting the game. When I returned to the game the next day, I was greeted only with the “New Game” option, and then spent several days grumpy about it before trying again.
Even moving as quickly as I could through the early parts of the game, it took me over half an hour before I hit … well, I guess it was the second tutorial battle. After about an hour of total playtime, I have yet to actually start the game for real. Which, I suppose, is great if you like lengthy game, not so great when you’re just peeking in to see how you like it. Checking How Long To Beat told me I could expect to spend about 20 hours playing through the main story, up to about 30 if I chose to take the completionist route.
Still, the art style is gorgeous, the story hook of being a time mage was intriguing, and other than not caring for the control scheme, nothing turned me off about the game as far as I got. However, I don’t feel like for this title, an hour was nearly enough time to really get a feel for the mechanics; it was just barely enough time to be introduced to them. You control all the characters in your party in the turn-based combat section, and there’s a mechanic where you need to press a button at the right time to do extra damage or block that I really didn’t care for. If I want to have to make twitch movements, give me action combat and an easy mode.
For me, Cris Tales was a game full of small annoyances, without enough tasty bits to keep me interested. I decided to glance at reviews, hoping to get more perspective from fans of the genre, and even the detractors mostly didn’t seem to mind the things that grated for me. I’m chalking this one up to another genre mismatch, which resulted in a game that was exactly what it was supposed to be, just not to my personal tastes.
SteamDB estimates that Cris Tales has sold between 6,200 and 16,900 copies on Steam, but has likely been played far more often after being an Epic Store free game and being available on XBoX GamePass. It’s gotten mixed reviews, with the majority of complaints focusing on a lack of polish and a weak second half. It is ranked 6758 out of 10,967 games released in 2021.